Strolling the South Side

Traveling produce stand brings fresh food to residents’ homes

Four bananas, two pears and two tomatoes: $3.25. These are the fresh produce items that Betty Brooks, 87, bought recently without even leaving home. On Wednesdays, Brooks goes downstairs to the lobby of her Valley Vista Apartments home to purchase her weekly produce from the brightly colored vehicle that brings nutrition to the South Side: It’s the Farm Fresh Mobile Market truck.

Diane Turner helps one of her customers at the Valley Vista apartments. She brings her Farm Fresh Mobile Market to these apartment every Tuesday. -- Photo by John C. Liau

From Tuesdays through Fridays and for special events, Mobile Market, a vegetable stand on wheels, sets up shop within the community. The truck makes its rounds to senior homes like Valley Vista, as well as Syracuse Community Health Center and Mundy Branch Library. When Mobile Market makes a stop, spreading out the day’s bounty, shoppers can find everything from pears and plums to sweet potatoes and acorn squash.

For senior home residents like Brooks who might be less able or without easy access to transportation, the Mobile Market makes shopping much simpler.

“It’s just perfectly convenient, and they have everything you need — all but the ham hock,” Brooks said with a chuckle.

With no grocery store to call its own, the South Side was the prime location for the Mobile Market because its residents had the greatest need.

“The corner stores didn’t have much and we wanted to bring fresh produce into the community,” said Diane Turner, president of the Southside Interfaith Community Development Corporation. She runs the Mobile Market.

Kim Mere defends his South Side corner store, Jimmy’s Super Saver, for its selection of fruits and vegetables, saying, “This is the place to be, whatever the people need, I got it.”

But Turner says there is no competition. The more access that South Side residents have to healthy foods, the better, she said.

The concept of the Mobile Market was modeled after an idea in Oakland, Calif., called People’s Grocery. Syracuse’s own version materialized in 2005, in partnership with the Gifford Foundation, the Allyn Foundation, Southside Interfaith Community Development Corporation and with some help from Wegmans.

Aside from its daily rounds, Mobile Market recently started collaborating with Parkside Children’s Center, a division of Arc of Onondaga. The Mobile Market is considering cooking classes for Parkside families. Maureen Fauler, a dietitian at Crouse Hospital, plans to bring a nutritional facet to the classes.
Susan Prince, director of the Parkside Center, said she is excited about the new connection.

Fresh garlic and potatoes wait to be purchased. -- Photo by John C. Liau

“We have a lot of families that can’t get out to the market because they don’t have transportation,” she said. “And groceries are just too expensive, so this will be great.”

Mobile Market survives on donations from the community and grants from the state in order to keep prices low for customers. For now, it is focused on getting funding and donations to purchase a new truck.

Turner said she hopes to continue spreading nutrition to families that need it.

“My goal and vision is that we’ll be expanding more and more into different neighborhoods and maybe eventually having a couple trucks.”